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Obama Administration Clears Way For Nevada To Regulate Online Poker

Online poker players have been waiting patiently since April for US legislators to step up and clarify the online gambling laws in the country. In September, the Justice Department brightened the spirits of millions of poker players when a legal opinion gave reason for hope.

The legal opinion made clear the intent of the 1961 Wire Act. The law was designed to prevent sports betting, namely horse race betting, by telecommunications. The intent of the law was to stop illegal betting that was taking place with foreign companies and illegal bookmakers. For decades, the federal government used the law to claim that all forms of online gambling were illegal.

The legal opinion released by the Office of Legal Counsel in September, states that the law only applies to sporting events. The opinion was issued in response to several states challenging the Wire Act after wanting to sell lottery tickets online within their borders.

Although the lottery was the main reason for the challenge, online poker players may become the biggest beneficiary. Nevada and Washington DC have already created laws regulating online poker, and both were waiting on federal lawmakers to change the existing laws before their online poker sites were launched. The opinion, according to several legal and gaming analysts, paves the way for online poker sites to go live in the near future.

""The United States Department of Justice has given the online gaming community a big, big present," said I. Nelson Rose, as reported by The Associated Press. Rose is a gaming law expert that has been at the center of the legal battle between pro-online gambling lawmakers and US residents, and the federal government.

Rose went on to say that now states have the opportunity to legalize online gambling, outside of sports betting, without the fear of breaking federal laws. That determination could open the door to what already has become one of the top industries in the world.

Over the past decade, online gambling has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Dozens of countries have liberalized their gaming laws in order to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into their local budgets. US lawmakers, led by Senator Harry Reid from Nevada, have started to make a push for regulated online gambling late last year in the lame duck session. Reid's attempt failed, but brought attention to an industry that had millions of Americans participating at online sites that were unregulated in the US.

The issue became even more muddled in April when the Justice Department issued indictments against three of the most popular online poker sites in the world. The indictments of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker sent online poker players into an outrage. The constituents flooded their representatives offices with e-mails, call, and letters. The legislators have responded with a re-energized effort to clarify, and or, change, the current laws.

Now that the opinion has been made public, Nevada is poised to become the first state in the US to launch online poker sites. The issue of regulation is still at hand, with some still questioning whether technology exists that can keep out underage gamblers. Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson was the latest to criticize the effort to regulate online gambling, saying he did not believe technology was prepared to handle Internet gaming.

Adelson has been instrumental in pushing some new land-based gaming markets for his LVS brand. Along with Genting Malaysia and Wynn Resorts, Adelson has been lobbying Florida lawmakers to legalize full-scale Vegas-style gaming in the Sunshine State. Any online poker sites that were regulated would take away from land-based casino action, which gives Adelson a reason to oppose such regulations.

Other US-based gaming companies have embraced the idea of regulated online gambling. Caesars Entertainment has already launched online sites in jurisdictions where the activity is legal, and they are poised to do so in the US. Steve Wynn had a partnership in place with PokerStars before the April indictment, but has since ended that relationship.

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